I can ask you if you like truffle, but it would be like asking you if your heart is beating right now – rhetorical question. If your answer is NO to either question, this means you’re dead inside anyway.
Okay, enough rambling. I’m writing to recount my mystical weekend to the land of truffle: Alba. Nestled in the Piedmont region of Italy, Alba is renowned for its world-famous white truffles, which are in season from September to December. This small town transforms into a hub of activity during the truffle season, with locals and tourists alike coming together to sample the delicacies only found during this time of year.
If you’re a foodie or just love trying new and unique experiences, visiting Alba during the truffle season is a must. You’ll have the chance to try dishes made with fresh, high-quality truffles and learn about the rich history and culture surrounding this sought-after delicacy.
The white truffle is a type of edible fungus that grows underground near the roots of oak, hazel, and poplar trees. It’s known for its pungent, earthy flavor and aroma, and is used to add depth and richness to dishes such as pasta, risotto, and even scrambled eggs. While truffles are available year-round, the flavor and aroma are most intense during the truffle season, making late fall the perfect time to visit Alba.
The Alba Truffle Fair
One of the best ways to experience the truffle season in Alba is by visiting one of the towns with many truffle fairs. The most famous of these is the International Alba White Truffle Fair, which takes place from October to early December. This annual event brings together truffle hunters, local chefs, and food enthusiasts from all over the world to celebrate the harvest of the precious white truffle.
At the fair, you can try a variety of dishes made with fresh truffles, including truffle-infused cheeses, pastas and meats. You can also attend cooking demonstrations where local chefs will show you how to incorporate truffles into your own dishes.
Most of all, you can just get high on the smell of truffle that infuses the streets of the town.
If you’re interested in learning more about the process of truffle hunting, you can book a truffle hunt with a local guide. These guided tours will take you through the surrounding forests where you will learn about the different types of truffles and the methods used to find them.
There are two types of tours: the ones where you accompany the hunter and you don’t get to keep the truffles at the end, and the one where you do. If you decided to do the former like I did, it cost 20 euros per person for a 3-to-4 hour hunt, and you can buy truffles from the hunter at the end. It costs 1-to-4 euros per gram for black truffles depending on the size, which is a good deal!
The cherry on top is that the one dog breed officially recognised for being truffle hunters are labradoodles, also known as fluff balls of happiness.
As the hunter explained, in Italy they use dogs rather than pigs (such as in France) because, first of all, it’s easier to put a dog in the boot of a car and second of all, dogs’ flair are more developed than pigs’ and can find truffles which are buried more deeply. Lastly, it’s easier to train a dog not to eat a truffle than it is to train a pig.
More things to do in Alba
In addition to the truffle fairs and truffle hunts, there are many other events and activities to enjoy during the truffle season in Alba. You can take a guided tour of the town’s historic center, visit one of its many wineries to sample local wines, or attend a truffle-themed cooking class.
If you do plan to go to Alba during truffle season, you have to book your accommodation in advance. We ended up renting a stunning typical countryside Italian house that was a 30 minute drive from Alba, which was ideal.
In conclusion, visiting Alba during the truffle season is a unique and unforgettable experience. From the truffle fairs and hunting tours to the local cuisine and charming atmosphere, there’s something for everyone to enjoy in this beautiful Italian town.
What are you waiting for? Book you trip!
After completing her Digital Anthropology Masters at University College London (UCL) Pauline Lemaire currently is based in Geneva, Switzerland. Pauline grew up in Singapore and Morocco, but her family has now relocated to Paris.
She holds a bachelor’s degree in French Literature and Philosophy from the University of Oxford.